Gallery 88 – Paarl

“The numerous indoor-outdoor transitions in this building create a remarkable spatial flow and many different areas where one might reflect or gather. The brief to Robert de Jager required that an art gallery be created of a quality not usually encountered in a country town for the exhibition of contemporary art. Today the visual impact of the gallery – a bright, white, layered and permeable piece of architecture – is considerable. While retaining the single-storeyed domestic scale, despite the option of increased bulk and with relatively little extension of the original footprint, the building projects appropriately its public persona. Primarily, a radical spatial reordering has been instigated by a diagonal thrust: this extends from an oak tree on the sidewalk to cut through the cellular spaces of the house, eliminating the intervening walls and maximising the gallery space.
The diagonal is reinforced by the trajectory of two sets of approach steps, leading from the pavement to the front entrance. These broad steps, as they rise, cross a horizontal layering of levels – a planter with a single row of young trees, a linear area for the display of sculpture and finally the terraces along the east elevation of the existing building. The wide terrace which extends to the right of the approach steps is an extension of the existing stoep of the house. Together with terraces along the north and west elevations, it enlarges the footprint of the original building. The progression up the steps heightens the sense of approach. Arrival itself is enhanced by the wide doorway with the butt-aligned frameless glass panels folded back.

Rather than an overambitious development of this fine site, Paarl has gained a building of quality – contextually sensitive in scale and treatment, and an enrichment of the mixed-use environment that is evolving along Main Road.”
Jean Nutall, INSPIRED INTERVENTIONS IN THE ORDINARY, Architecture South Africa – Journal of the South African Institute of Architects, March/April 2011

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